The Christmas holiday is over. Thank goodness. We went through an intolerably long period of debating real tree versus fake tree. I was on the side of pro-fake tree. Can be used for many years, blah, blah, blah… My husband was pro-real tree. He was all: let’s take the girls to the fir farm and let them have the tradition of selecting and chopping their own… blah, blah… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Whatever. We disagreed and never came to a decision. Our girls (and the dogs) took things into their own hands and got Grandma to come over and help them get the fake tree out of the attic when my husband and I weren’t paying attention. We came home to find the girls and Grandma (and the dogs) decorating a slightly crooked, slightly dusty, probably-on-its-last-legs tree. But you know how the Peanuts characters decorated Charlie Brown’s tree and made it look so awesome? Well, our tree didn’t turn out so bad, either.
I didn’t feel like I had won anything, though. I just felt like a heel for not doing something sooner. The girls were having a blast decorating that tree. The three-year-old couldn’t stop giggling. The five-year-old sang holiday songs at the top of her lungs whether she knew the words or not. And then I knew, on this issue, my greenish life choices can go out the window. I have to allow our family permission for that. What matters is that our family is healthy and we are happy and together. What matters is that we had a wonderful holiday season and spent some very good quality time together. What matters is that we are so fortunate to be surrounded by so much love in this life. On this issue, I can honestly say that I don’t know, and maybe don’t care if we made the proper green-ish choice. We made the proper choice for us. And that is always right.Happy new year to all!
I love (LOVE!) the blog GardeninNirvan (http://gardeningnirvana.com) and this post captures the current discussions (arguments?) in our house: real tree or fake tree? I’m pro fake tree. Can be used for many years, blah, blah, blah… My husband is pro real tree. He’s all: let’s take the girls to the fir farm and let them have the tradition of selecting and chopping their own tree; it’ll be fun. Whatever. We disagree on this. So, for now, we don’t have a tree. But we will figure it out. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this post, reblogged and linked here: The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake?.
It’s cold here. Not ice cold; but cold enough to make me not want to trek out into the back yard just to go turn those giant compost bins we keep against the far fence. I don’t want to do it. Too cold. Too much trouble to find shoes and a coat and all that just to go rotate the piles. I do not want to. I’m starting to sound like my five year old. Maybe she’s got a point: shouldn’t it be okay to say ‘I just don’t want to’ sometimes? Maybe she’s right.
My husband and I have a happy little agreement that keeps our household running along smoothly: I am in charge of the family calendar, the household environment (that’s decorating and making sure the place doesn’t smell), clothing for all of us (which really means laundry and making sure everyone has a hat when they leave on cold mornings), and I manage the children (mostly). He is in charge of the physical plant (home maintenance), security (locking the doors at night), sanitation (taking the trash out), and heavy lifting (he lifts heavy stuff for me). It works about 99.99% of the time. Our system failed us once when we couldn’t decide if changing poopy diapers was a managing children duty or sanitation. In the end, the child had to be changed and I think I just gave in. But he has changed his fair share of diapers over the years, so we’re good on that point.
The only other time that our system has failed us was this morning. It was really cold; the coldest morning this fall season to date. We were getting ourselves and the girls dressed to go out and it occurred to me that one of us needed to go rotate the compost piles. Obviously, this is a sanitation issue. Of course it is. So I say, “don’t forget to go give the compost bins a twirl.” He was confused. Isn’t that a household activity? No, dear, it’s not. We disagreed. We grimaced at each other. We made plaintive arguments to try and convince the other one to go do this chore. Neither of us budged. So I went deep into my arsenal of weapons and pulled this winner out: “I just don’t want to! Can’t you just do it?!” The only thing that was missing was pouting and stomping on the floor. My husband was not amused.
Eventually we did need to actually leave the house and I was busy fastening the girls into their car seats in the back of our car when I saw my husband headed into the backyard. He gave in, but he still disagrees that turning those huge bins falls under his responsibility list. Fine. I’ll do it every now and then just to be nice.
The point is that we shouldn’t ignore our compost piles over the winter months. If we are continually adding organic kitchen scraps, as my family does, then we need to make sure we’re giving the compost the best opportunity to do it’s magic. We just have to keep in mind that the colder the temperatures, the more important it is to keep to at least a 20:1 ration of brown to green materials. In addition, we make sure to keep the bins in a sunny spot to help keep the temperature up and the pile ‘cooking.’
We’ve fixed the ratio problem I had a few weeks ago that made the piles stinky. Now that we’ve settled that, I’ll just make sure that we keep adding materials in the proper rations all winter long. But for the record, I’m just not looking forward to getting out there in the snowy weather.
Anyone else still composting over the winter months?
- Best Small Space Compost Bins 2012 (apartmenttherapy.com)
- Those Raked Leaves Are Piled Treasure (chesnutforchange.wordpress.com)
- Watering the Trash (or “Composting”) (thestonecypheryard.wordpress.com)
- What Convinced Me To Start Composting (businessinsider.com)
- Step Up Your Recycling Efforts: Composting, It’s Easier Than You Think! (cleansd.wordpress.com)
That dreaded day has finally come. The last pick up of our CSA share for this year. There will be no more weekly trips to my beloved farm until next spring. No more fresh, organic vegetables waiting for me to pick them up and bring them home. No more walks through the green fields. No more quiet moments sitting on the soft grass looking off into the clear distance, enjoying the smell of nothing, and appreciating the silence. That’s all over. And I am sad.
In the spring the veggie shares are light and easy to carry. There are lettuces and spring onions, braising greens, and other light weight foods. The bags are easy to carry. And they’re filled with flavors that have been sadly missing from my diet for months. I love the spring flavors and the spring pick ups. The spring shares are bright and shiny and light.
Today’s share was wonderfully heavy. The fall vegetables are cabbages and winter squash, cauliflower, potatoes and large onions, carrots and parsnips. My bags were so heavy, and impossible to manage while I tried to fill the next bag. I kept bumping into the people around me, so I earned a few nasty looks. Part of the problem was that we were getting a double share today since the recent superstorm stopped us from being able to pick up our shares two weeks ago. I filled my bags with two weeks worth of the weighty booty and tried not to be ridiculously emotional. Everyone around me seemed just fine. How could it only be me feeling so sad? Have they no heart?
I reminded myself that I would still come by for our weekly dairy and chicken shares. Not the same. In the winter months the pick up is so sterile. They don’t even allow us to drive up the main farm road! We drive up to the farm stand, open the window, and someone hands over the chicken, the eggs, the milk, the butter… It’s like a primitive version of the drive-through. There’s no fresh air. It’s not peaceful. If you move too slowly loading the milk and stuff into your car, the person next in line will honk their horn and give you the stink eye. This is not the weekly visit to the farm that I crave.
Then I told myself that we had worked really hard to store a lot of the summer vegetables. I could comfort myself with vegetables that we blanched and stored (either canned or in the freezer), all winter long. I’ll look forward to enjoying our farm share veggies all through the cold weather months. And that’s what helped me feel a little better. Having a farm share is wonderful because it gets my family fresh, local, organic veggies for about half of the year. It does require work to preserve the weekly excess. We found that we rarely ate all the veggies that came to us in the week before the next share arrived. Wednesday nights at our house were crazy-cooking-canning-blanching-freezing fests that I wrote about here. I won’t regret any of that hard work when I’m eating those delicious fresh veggies when there’s snow on the ground.
This year, both of my daughters started asking for vegetables for snacks. My three-year old wants to experiment with the ingredients we add to our homemade smoothies; so far, sweet potatoes seems to be her favorite ‘surprise’ ingredient. And the five-year old wants carrots in her lunch box every day and nearly cried when she realized that kale would not be included in the farm share every week. That’s worth a lot to me. If there were no other benefit, I would keep coming back for my children’s sake.
I would say to anyone who asked that joining a CSA is a good idea. But I would caution that the full benefit of the share requires more than just showing up on the appointed weekday and picking up bags of produce. One has to be willing to do the work while the food is in season to enjoy it year round. I also think that you have to learn to be creative with recipes or else the third week of grilled eggplant will feel old. CSA members have to research recipes for immediate cooking and storing the food long-term. We needed a deep freezer to hold our frozen bounty. I would not recommend joining a CSA to anyone who is not ready to handle the work and the storage. But to those who think they can handle it, I say yes! Do it! It is so worth it.
Our farm is a beautiful place that sits on atop a rolling hill three miles from my home. I know my farmer and I trust his methods. I know many of the workers there and I appreciate their hard work planting, harvesting, slaughtering, and butchering. I enjoy the weekly visits and usually spent a little extra time there watching my girls play in the fields, or enjoying a rare moment of quiet time alone. I’ll be back next year when the CSA season begins again. Until then, I take one last, long look over the farm grounds trying to burn the images into my memory. I’ll miss this farm.
I grabbed the six bags of veggies, fruit, chickens, beef, milk, butter, and eggs that I packed for my family for the last time this year and limped over to my car. I don’t want to leave. I love this farm and I am already looking forward to coming back next year. We’ve signed up for next year’s CSA. See you next spring then, Farmer Wilson. Keep warm this winter.
- Goodbye CSA! (southernveganfood.com)
I hope this isn’t just the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy talking, but I want solar panels. I want enough solar panels to eliminate the electricity portion of my utility bill every month. I want to produce enough solar power that the utility company will have to pay me for the electricity my system sends back to the utility. I want to end my dependence on our utility company for our electric power and I want it now! My husband disagrees.
Maybe I should have begun with this statement: I hate my utility provider. Not the nice men who come to read my meter, nor the wonderful men and women who work day and night to restore power after an outage. No. I hate the nameless, faceless (and probably non-existent) fat cat owners of the utility monopoly that pretends to serve my area. They don’t serve. They just send bills and receive payments, in my opinion. We lose power a lot (okay, twice a year; still seems too much). They don’t read our meter on any regular basis, so we constantly pay more than necessary until they adjust the bill to reflect our actual usage. And we purposefully bought a house in an area with underground wires, but we lose power as much as any other neighborhood because… actually, I don’t know why that is.
I want to fire my utility. Why does my husband disagree, you ask? It’s a dollars and sense question for him. We agree that we should consider alternative energy. He just wonders if the price of the panels won’t come down to a more reasonable level in a few years? Are we moving too quickly to get solar panels when the same thing (or something better) will be available at a much cheaper price in a few years? Good question. But if anyone knew the answer to that, they could also predict the lottery numbers and they could just help us win the next big lottery jackpot. Who knows?!
I think we should go ahead and do it now while the utility rebates and tax incentives are available. With that, we can save nearly 70% of the purchase price. Let’s just do it now! But my husband isn’t ready.
So I wonder if anyone out there has solar panels? Or have you considered solar panels and decided against it? I would love to hear any comments on either side of the argument. Share your thoughts!
A few weeks ago, I tried a yoga class. I didn’t know anything about yoga. I only knew that I wanted to work out, but I didn’t want to jump up and yell “woooooooo!” in the middle of the sweaty session. Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs a little cardio, but I’m just not made for those group classes where we all pretend we don’t look like idiots trying to mimic the uber-shapely instructor. I’d rather look like an idiot all alone; I do my cardio in the fitness center on one of the machines (treadmill, stair climber, etc.). I do it there so that I can watch TV and then I won’t notice when anyone looks at me and laughs at my poor form. But I digress.
The point is, I was looking for something new and I wandered into a yoga class. And now I’m hooked. I have decided that I really, really love yoga. I get myself to a class when I can, but not less than 3 times a week. And I love it. Yoga class challenges me. Yoga relaxes me. Yoga reminds me to breathe fully and not be satisfied with my usual shallow breaths. I leave yoga feeling that wonderful soreness you get from a really good workout. But then I recover, and I want to do it again. Something about it is just that good.
Here is what I’ve learned about yoga and about myself from these first few classes:
- Yoga really is a workout. I don’t sweat like I do with my cardio workout, but I do sweat. Holding those poses and balancing for such long periods takes a lot of energy. I sweat, therefore it is a workout.
- I have terrible balance. Remember when we were kids and we could do a handstand, or a head stand, or stand on one leg, or anything else that required balance? Well, if you don’t actively practice that, you lose it. I have lost it. It takes a lot for me to balance myself; and we’re not doing anything too difficult. For now, it’s the tree pose: stand on one foot; wrap the other foot around the standing foot’s ankle or calf; hands in front of your heart or raised above your head; now hold that pose for 90 seconds. Go ahead. I’ll wait. … … … Not so easy is it? Now do poses like that for 75 minutes. That’s my yoga class.
- Yoga is not a religion. I think that I thought it was a religious practice. If it is, I haven’t seen that yet. My yoga instructors haven’t introduced any religious-y ideas into the class. I’ve stopped being suspicious. No religion here.
- I do not breathe very deeply in my normal life. In yoga I’m learning to control my breathing and to breathe deeply using my full lung capacity. That’s harder than it sounds, particularly when you have to remember to do that for the entire 75 minute class. I’m trying to be more conscious of my breath outside of class. That will take some time.
- I want to be good at yoga. When I do my cardio workout, I really don’t care what I look like. I just want to get it done. And as long as I don’t hear any audible giggles, I feel okay about the workout. But I work really hard in yoga class to do the poses correctly and get the most out of each. As opposed to just getting it done, I want to do this right and become really good at yoga.
This is all new for me. I would not have predicted that I would ever try yoga, much less enjoy it this much. I guess this is all part of my continuing evolution. I’m a woman, a wife, and a mother. I’m a bit greenish, partly by necessity, partly because I believe it’s the right thing to do. And I do yoga. At least 3 times a week.
- The 15 yoga stretches that your body needs (thetimes.co.uk)
- Roll Out the Yoga Mat and Reap the Health Benefits (savings.com)
Today was one of the happiest days of my life! What day is that, you ask? Today is the day that our utility company finally restored power to my area! Huzzah! We have lights again!
We lost power last Monday evening just as Hurricane (or Tropical Storm) Sandy hit land. The electricity went off and stayed off for six long days. Six days! That’s too long for any family to live in the dark. And since Octobers lately have been unseasonably cold, it’s not warm enough to live without heat. Not to mention the fact that the kids can’t go to school under those circumstances, so they’re home needing entertainment and suffering from advanced stages of cabin fever. Six days is too long to ask me to give up the sweet solitude that I have once the husband leaves for work and the kids leave for school. It’s too much for the dogs who are confused about the change in schedule. Six days is too much. And if you had asked me before the power outage what one thing couldn’t I live without for six days, I would have said it was the television. I love television. I LOVE television. In our house the TV is always on; it is my constant companion when I’m home alone and I love it. I would have said that I can’t live without it.
I shouldn’t complain (but I will) because my super-terrific (and generally pessimistic) husband predicted that one day we would lose power for a big chunk of time and he had our house wired with a back up generator. At the time I thought it was the biggest waste of money ever. By Tuesday evening when the temperature dropped rather precipitously, I was outside kissing that thing on its metal side! And if anyone asks when we’re out with friends recalling the storm, the generator was all my idea.
But even with the generator, not having power is stressful. I worried about the possibility of carbon monoxide gas being blown back inside the house from the generator. I worried about the really large trees on our property that survived the storm, but that might be so damaged that they won’t withstand another big wind. I worried about our neighbors who didn’t have any heat or power. I worried about my daughters who were both showing signs of stress as their routine continued to unravel as the week progressed; school was cancelled, activities were closed, and play dates couldn’t happen because roads were impassible. I spent the week worrying. But this was no surprise; I am a black belt worrier. I can worry with the best of ’em.
The real surprise was that our family didn’t miss the things we thought we couldn’t do without. We really didn’t miss the television, the video games, nor the electric kitchen appliances. I’m not kidding. We just didn’t miss any of that. Instead, we read books aloud to each other and we had more time to talk. We sat around our fireplace and sang songs like a corny, old episode of some 1950s TV show. We cooked food and chopped with knives instead of using the food processor. We used wisks instead of the blender. We mixed with our hands instead of the electric mixer. Without this little ‘experiment’, I would have said that we need all of these things, but it turns out that we are really okay without it.
Pre-Sandy, my husband and I were debating the pros and cons of removing the TV from our family room. Our family room is an open space into our kitchen and the TV can be seen from both rooms. On the one hand, it is nice to have the TV available to watch the news and to enjoy Friday Family Movie/Fun Night with the kids. On the other hand, our daughters tend to be mesmerized by the TV and they stop moving when we turn it on; that’s not what we want for them so maybe it makes sense to remove the TV altogether. Now, having spent a week without the TV in the family room, or any room for that matter, we are now firmly leaning toward removing it. That TV’s days in my family room are numbered.
And that’s the big learning for me: I won’t fall apart without the TV ever-present in the family room. And my family won’t have much trouble filling the time and space that the TV used to occupy. This is HUGE for us. I know many people who aren’t tethered to their TVs the way we were. But that used to seem so drastic to us; we didn’t think we could make that leap. But here we are, and it’s not that bad.
For now, we’re going to just keep the TV off and see how it goes. I’m so happy with the way our family has enjoyed time together that I don’t want to lose that. It shouldn’t be too hard to keep this going. We’re not going cold turkey. We have a TV in the master bedroom, and another one in the basement that we can use on Friday Family Movie/Fun Night. If I need it, I can go to another room. But I don’t have to help my kids’ minds turn to mush by having it on when they’re in the house. And that seems a worthwhile change for our family to make. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.
My best to all those affected by the storm. I wish you all a swift recovery from the effects of the storm. We are well aware that our silly six days is nothing in comparison to the losses some have endured. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are suffering as a result of the storm.
- Counting my blessings after Hurricane Sandy (caregiving.com)
- Eyeing the Storm: Returning to Hurricane Sandy (lifestoolbox.wordpress.com)
- “Superstorm” Sandy – Our Experience With the Frankenstorm (faymily.wordpress.com)